Monday, 15 October 2007

Stupid cold, stop fogging up my Nick Cave fantasies

This is a tragedy. The stupid cold that has commandeered my brain has not only made it impossible for me to go out tonight, but it is also now holding a cruel, murky sway over my imagination/intellectual abilities. I'm like a robot. I see the cover of the Observer Music Monthly with Pete Doherty and Paul McCartney on it, but do I feel spite? Confusion? No. I just look at it and think, "Pete Doherty and Paul McCartney. Hmm. Okay!" Same with the possibility that the clumpy sugar I just stirred into my sick person's tea kind of had a sort of tunnel structure going on inside it. Did I just demolish a minute insect community? Am I currently drinking a mixture of tiny exoskeletons and spicy Indian chai? Do I care? Meh, no. Time to press F5 on

Now, there was a time when my reaction to news about the upcoming release dates of two Nick Cave projects would've been on a whole different level. Would I have read the artist profiles from the Mute Records website and Australia's The Age newspaper with such apathy? Fuck no! I would've leaned back in my chair, my eyes gently closing, and my mind drifting off to the untamed reaches of the American West.

An ominous sky looms. Clouds of dust rise up as a mysterious stranger in a long black duster strides through the empty streets. Candlelight flickers behind the shuttered windows of this meager, hungry little town.

"Strike up a tune, Rusty," I say to the organ player.

"Much obliged!" says Rusty and begins a rollicking number.

"Nah, Rusty, I don't want none of that trifling music hall nonsense," I explain. "I want a song that's real. A song that people in this town can feel--a song about emotional atrophy, a song about the blood red sun setting in the west--a song about loving someone but also hating them at the same time."

Rusty looks down at the spittoon by his foot, bewilderedly scratching his sunburned old head. "Well, ma'am, I don't reckon I know too many songs like that."

Just at that moment the soot-blackened saloon doors are thrust open with an unholy assurance and the Stranger slinks into the room. All eyes focus on the tall, thin man in the black vaquero's hat. All hands linger on their concealed pistols. An uneasy silence hangs over the room.

"What can I get you, Mister?" asks the barman Kentucky Jim.

"I'm gonna be straight with you fine people," the Stranger says, nonchalantly rising to his feet. His steps echo unsettlingly on the worn wood floorboards. Click. Click. Click to an empty corner near the bar. "In my youth I was a dark, angry man, violent and strange. There's folks in Missouri would sooner fight the devil himself then risk a glimpse of me on their grange. There's many a year between me and my mad youth, but memories don't lie and they don't disappear. I've walked many a mile alone in my pain and my grief, searching for redemption in the vast mountain ranges and the rolling blue skies, in the faces of women, and in the company of men. But what's done is done, and I know what I am. I am just a man, on his own in this big mean world, and all I want to do before I die is sing you folks a song I wrote."

The Stranger reaches in his duster and pulls out a guitar. "I would like to play you a song from my forthcoming album with The Bad Seeds," the Stranger intones in a low voice. "It's called Dig! Lazarus! Dig! and will be coming out sometime around February 2008."

"Why, it's Nick Cave in our very own saloon bar!" I whisper to Kentucky Jim. "I declare, 2008 truly IS going to be the best year ever!" Kentucky Jim shoots me a sidelong glance out of his good eye and nods almost imperceptibly.

The last trembling note of the guitar rings out in the crisp October air, and the Stranger starts to look as if he's eying the door. Hurriedly I pour him a tall glass of whiskey and take it to his table. "I reckon you're just what this town needs, Mister," I say, helping myself to a seat.

"Well, I thank you kindly, ma'am," he says, slamming the whiskey down in one gulp. Outside the dogs began to howl. Emanating from the low scrubby hills comes the ghostly cries of the coyotes. The Stranger looks at me. I look at him. Inside, my head is spinning like a merry-go-round. Remember the line in Your Funeral, My Trial that mentions "crooked bitches"? Well, it is with a growing awareness that I realize perhaps one day the Stranger will write a song describing me as a crooked bitch!

The Stranger seems to know what I'm thinking. "Is there a place a fella could hole up around here for the night?" he asks.

"I'll wager that Ruby's got something open," I tell him. "I'll have Quick Draw Jenny show you the way."

"I am truly grateful for your hospitality, ma'am."

"Please--call me Alison," I say. And just as suddenly as he arrived, the Stranger takes his leave.

The clock strikes, an hour later than I expect. "Alright, folks, finish them drinks!" Kentucky Jim shouts. The cowpokes and railroad men start to make their way out into the faint moonlight. The saloon cat, Camilla, hops onto the dark wood bar and I absentmindedly toss her a piece of scrap. The door swings open again.

"This establishment is closed!" I call out, back to the door. The footsteps approach anyway and I turn around. It is my gentleman caller, Casey Affleck as he appears in the best movie of 2007, "The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford"--the soundtrack to which will be released on November 5th on Mute Records, featuring songs by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

"I don't see how this is a time for joking," he says, straightening his mercury-treated felt bowler hat.

"Why, whatever are you talking about?"

"Now, Miss Alison, you know I value you a whole helluva lot more than the biggest gold nuggets the men are finding out in them there hills. And while I may have an anachronistic belief in feminism and human equality in general, I am going to have to put my foot down. I don't want you associating with the likes of that no account cowboy crooner," he says.

"What a darn silly thing to say," I protest.

"It ain't so damn silly," he interjects, cutting me off. "'Cause that man has a price on his head."

Hot damn! I can't believe I just wrote that whole ridiculous thing! And if you read it, well then, FUCK! I can't believe you just wasted minutes of your life on that sexy Cormac McCarthy rip-off! (Fun fact: there actually is news in there somewhere. See if you can find it!)

Oh yeah, man, this literary triumph is gonna be A PIECE OF CAKE. Can you see that? That's the sight of critics SWOONING as they discuss my latest smash hit of a novel. Can you hear that? That's the sound of royalties clinking in the pockets of my vintage Balenciaga opera jacket. Ahh it feels good to be me. Except for this damn cold.

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